Traditional root vegetables are getting a makeover in Quebec as growers test colorful new varieties.
Denis Forino, sales director of St. Patrice de Sherrington, Quebec-based Les Fermes V. Forino Inc., packed his first bags of colored radishes with red, white and purple interiors this spring after a request from Loblaw stores.
“It’s our first year and we’re just doing 50 boxes a week,” said Forino, who also grows regular radishes, lettuce, cabbage, celery and carrots.
“Nobody knows them, but it’s a start,” he said. “We’ll try more next year.”
Gord Medynski, director of sales and purchasing for St. Ubalde, Quebec-based Patates Dolbec, is anxious to see how consumers react to the company’s 2-pound bag of white, red and blue mini and fingerling potatoes, expected to arrive in Metro stores in September.
“They work well in the U.S., but they’re new in our market,” Medynski said.
“We have minimal amounts, and we’ll see how it takes off,” he said.
“We’re hoping the program will expand next year.”
Guillaume Henri, vice president of sales and marketing for GNC Farms in St. Lin des Laurentides, Quebec, said his 2-pound stand-up bag of red, golden and candy-cane-striped chioggia beets, marketed under the company’s specialty Henri & Co. label, has sold well since its debut last summer in Quebec and the Eastern U.S.
“We can’t sell a truckload, but we’re using the product to open doors, and the customers I present it to love the ‘wow’ factor,” Henri said.
He’s discovered that chioggia beets sell better in a mixed bag than alone. He’s also discovered that being showcased in magazines doesn’t guarantee big sales for a particular vegetable.
“It may sell well in farmers markets, but I’d have trouble moving skids of it,” he said.
While retailers love the colored vegetables for their appearance and great taste, Pat Calabretta, Sobeys Quebec senior director of merchandising and purchasing, said it takes time for consumers to acknowledge and embrace new varieties.
“Because of the dollar ring, retailers don’t always have patience with these niche products,” Calabretta said.
Without patience, he said, consumers and retailers may miss out on a great item.